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Parade signals season
Event on Saturday
Christmas 08 3
Spectators enjoy last year's Festival of Lights at Northside-Hospital Forsyth. - photo by File photo
As the annual Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival approaches, Mayor H. Ford Gravitt took time to reflect over nearly a decade of the city’s holiday festivities.

“Years before, it was very pioneer here in Cumming and we would have a big tree brought in to the square and decorated it there beside the city hall, when city hall sat at the corner of courthouse square and Main Street,” he said.

“We’d always have the lighting of the tree and have a big crowd and a great social with the citizens.”

Though Gravitt said that was many years ago, the current parade and festival is just as exciting.

“You’ve got more options now,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more stores now and a lot more merchants here in Cumming.

“It’s always an exciting time and it’s a big kickoff for the Christmas shopping days. It’s not that long until Christmas, so hopefully that will get the cash registers ringing.”

The city’s parade, also sponsored by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday from Market Place Boulevard and Buford Dam Road.

The procession of more than 70 groups and floats continues up Market Place before ending at Hwy. 20. Following the parade, Northside Hospital-Forsyth will hold its annual Celebration of Lights.

The day could take on an even more festive feel thanks to the weather, with the forecast calling for a chance of snow flurries.

The Market Place parade route has helped some businesses attract customers before and after the festivities.

IHOP manager Shane Hesh said the restaurant gets a rush of customers before the parade begins, during what is otherwise “normally a slow time.”

“It’s not like a massive increase ... but people come over here,” he said.

The parade crowd is usually families with small children. During the afternoon, Hesh said, “People sit on the grass and watch the parade and enjoy themselves from the restaurant’s lawn.”

“I’ll see it from a distance, but I’m always working,” he said.

The Celebration of Lights, which begins at 4:30 p.m., raises money for the hospital’s Cancer Care program. It will feature refreshments, children’s activities and musical performances.

At 6:30 p.m., the hospital’s giant Christmas tree will be lit, with each light representing the life of someone diagnosed with cancer.

The tree lighting is Gravitt’s favorite part.

“I can only thank Northside for allowing us to participate in the lighting of the big tree,” he said. “We look forward to it every year.”